He was, when he worked, a hard worker. When he showed up at our house he didn’t waste any time. Then one day he completely vanished from the face of this planet. No form of communication could break the barriers he had set up. Phone calls, letters, even my personal surveillance of his house were to no avail. The people who run witness protection would do well to take lessons.
My olfactory senses are keen. My mom raised flowers and growing up the house where I lived was filled with the fragrances of roses, and camellias, and lilies. The kitchen stove perked with dishes whose odors made you imagine the familiar taste of ordinary food – sometimes with a twist. We never had fast food. It wasn’t invented. We thought fast food was when your mom slapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together and handed it to you as you ran out the door.
My mom invented blackened cooking, not the New Orleans Cajuns who stole the idea and made it famous. We had blackened roast beef, blackened eggs, blackened soup. When I got in college and ate my first breakfast in the commons I thought something was wrong. The toast was buttery and lightly brown. It was soft. My God, you didn’t have to scrape the blackened surface off of it. Fearing it was undercooked, I almost didn’t dare eat it.
When our kids were babies I could instantly tell when they messed in their pants even two rooms away. If I was holding a baby I would make an excuse to have my wife take over.
“Honey, please take the baby for a moment. I have to: use the bathroom, make a call, wash the car, check to see if the sun is experiencing a solar eclipse.” Any excuse to hand off that smelly child. Our firm family rule was he or she who has the baby in his or her arms changes the baby. No exceptions.
My wife’s nose does not work as fast. “Wes, this baby needs changing. Why did you give him to me?”
“Myrna, he was fine when I handed him to you. It just happened. Baby’s use the bathroom when someone hands them off.” I had her convinced babies poot when transferred. She doubted it deep down but couldn’t prove it. Dr. Spock was silent on the subject.
I love kids and babys. I do not love baby droppings. For months I had the wife fooled, or so I thought, but then she caught on. Child rearing was fun, except for smelly diapers. I was a hand’s on father. I have done my duty. Feeding, bathing, holding, baby bottles (cleaning and feeding), and yes, changing the baby, driving to school, T ball and soccer coaching, camping, swimming innumerable trips, homework, and all the rest . Our oldest is over forty and having wrestled with so many dirty diapers, to this day, I cannot look Creole Mustard in the face and would not hazard adding it to a sandwich. Instantly, the floating vapors of digested prunes and spinach come to mind. Just writing this I can smell the stuff.
The fellow I was talking about earlier was making custom cabinets for our new house. Since we were between houses and were living in a cramped apartment waiting to move in, I had the cabinet guy on a strict schedule. I am used to meeting deadlines. Thursday means Thursday. Don’t be late. We had a firm contract. Everything had to be ready by a specific day so we could move in and avoid another month’s rent. I remember when I first met the guy I had an awful cold. I spent about an hour with him and noticed a strong but distinct odor emanating from the direction of the cabinet contractor but I discounted this and attributed it to my cold. When I got back to the apartment my wife asked what was that smell. I had no explanation, she made me take bath immediately.
The stinky contractor and I crossed paths again when he came to install some, repeat some, of the units he had crafted. They were works of art. But, my God, he reeked, he stank. The cumulative stench was a combination of rotten eggs, wet straw, and chicken yard particles. My nose was fully healed but I was wishing the cold to return. I could not approach within 6 feet of the man. I left in a hurry.
A few weeks later the house was completed except for the balance of the cabinet work. Where was the man? More time elapsed. I finally gave up and hired someone else to complete the work. Of course, my original cabinet man slinked back into the picture wanting to get paid for his efforts. I am ashamed to say I employed many time honored verbs and adjectives to describe his ancestry when I told him a flat no. Stray cats began to congregate nearby sensing a meal, of sorts. I sprayed the front porch with an entire can of Lysol when he left. No way was I letting him in. We would have had to decontaminate.
George Estes is a decent guy and a good attorney. I had known him for years. He called me one day and told me the odorous man was in his office asking George to sue me over the money for the cabinets.
“You gotta be kidding. Let me tell you exactly what happened.” And, I did. Finally, I asked, “George, are you suing me?”
“Of course not, the guy just walked in the door. He’s in my office right now because the secretaries were getting sick smelling him in the waiting room. I’m out in the lobby because after two minutes with him I was getting sick. Look, Wes, I really will sue you if you don’t get this guy out of my office. One of my secretary just threw up in the garbage can and the other is threatening to quit. I am going to have to fumigate the whole place.”
My loyal and sneaky friend sent the aforesaid noxious carpenter down the street to see me, I refused when the receptionist told me he was here. He wold not leave. She buzzed me again. I said no. The receptionist and my secretary came in my office and begged me to see him and get rid of him or they were quitting. I thought they were bluffing and I said no. My partner, his secretary, my secretary, the receptionist, and a client whom I never met and who was waiting to see the partner walked in my office and begged me to see the guy because they were becoming visibly queasy.
“Ok, ok, ok. I’ll see him – on the patio.” I am not polluting my office. They filed out holding their noses. I stood upwind from the guy and offered him a few bucks to go away. He accepted and I made him sign a release. Carefully, I sealed the envelop and put it in the safe. I have no clue why he smelled. I do not think he had seen a shower for years and his underwear (if he wore any) long ago must have rotted away. I called George and told him he owed me half the cost of getting rid of the man. He said if I would send him an invoice he’d gladly pay. I didn’t, but I should have.
My wife is a sweet tender hearted lady. She would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Nor would she allow me to do so.
We were at the mall in line at a Piccadilly’s Cafeteria edging along making our selections. I don’t care which slice of pie, dinner roll, or prepared salad the person behind the counter gives me. I cannot tell the difference. Not so with my wife. She holds up the process and inspects each offering. The largest pie is her prize.
“No, not that one”, as she points and motions. “Give me the one in the back. No, the other one next to it. Yes, that‘s the one.” People behind us are become anxious. Sometimes customers who are behind us think there is something wrong with the food items she rejects.
As I was about to choose the chopped steak, an awful odor arose. It smelled of dead rodents blended with the scrapings of a cattle rancher’s shoes after a hard day of castrating unfortunate young bulls.
“Myrna, what is that terrible smell?” I ask.
“Just keep moving”, she instructs.
“I am not going to be able to eat.” The line stalls and we are trapped. “What is it?” I have the feeling she knows but is keeping it secret.
She whispers,”It’s the man behind us. Now, quiet.” As I turned to look I saw a nice looking older guy with a nice lady. Wham. It hit. The guy smelled awful. I got louder and louder.
“What is that stinking?” Admittedly, I am trying to get him to leave…quickly.
“Do not look at that man.” She commands. “He might not know he smells.” She is mindful of his feelings.
“Not know. Not know?” I am loud. I notice the customers behind Old Rotten Butt there have retreated and left their trays half full.
We plow through the interminable line. I happened to glance over my shoulder as I paid the ticket. Cabbage, two varieties of beans, a greasy sausage looking thingy, and three rolls were on Mr. Dodo Pant’s plate. My punishment begins.
“I can’t believe you said those things? You embarrassed that man.”
“Hey, I am the innocent one here. He is the stinker and under the law I am the stinkee.”
“No, honey, I was trying to perform a public service. He and his poor wife do not have noses. Maybe they were born without them, or lost them in a tragic accident while exploring an ancient city’s sewers. I don’t know. Point is they cannot smell. Ah, make that sniff.” I theorize he must have craped in his pants. “Sadly, they don’t realize it.” I lie, but with a straight face and it was a good lie too.
“You know better.” This means in Myrna Speak (of which I am fluent), I give up, you are hopeless.
We change the subject and as we pass by the Stink Family Robinson to leave, she says, “They do kinda smell don’t they?”
I consider this a singular vindication. I say nothing knowing to speak further will spoil the moment.